I love doing themed reads with my book club. It adds a lot to the experience of reading together, and gets you in the mood for whatever’s coming up next: the winter holidays, Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s Day), Halloween, summer vacation, or cultural awareness months.
For International Women’s Day coming up on March 8, here are some must-reads for all the fierce, strong women out there looking for some inspiration – from the 20-somethings to the baby boomers.
What should my book club read?
For the historical fiction lovers…
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
This is one of my favorite reads ever. It follows two stories: Maggie, forced to give up her baby during a teen pregnancy, and Elodie, the daughter who grew up in an orphanage in 1950s Quebec. Based on true events, children were intentionally misdiagnosed as mentally ill after a law is passed granting more funding to psychiatric hospitals than orphanages. It’s a fascinating look at a part of Canadian history often forgotten. That, a strong mother-daughter narrative, and a French Canadian forbidden love story makes this novel unputdownable.
The Address by Fiona Davis
The perfect mix of glamor, women in the workplace, a love story, and a little bit of mystery. It’s the 1880s and Sara Smythe just moved from England to New York City for a job working as head manager of The Dakota, a new and first-of-its-kind luxury apartment building. Fast-forward about 100 years, Bailey is just trying to rebuild her life after rehab. As Bailey tries to make a name for herself in the interior design business, as well as deal with her ongoing battle with addiction and grief, she uncovers Sara’s story. What do these two women have in common? That’s the best part!
The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
For a book on women getting into STEM and medicine, The Air We Breathe is a wonderful and relevant read. It’s about the tuberculosis epidemic and the cure cottages Americans of different social classes were sent to for recovery. Away from the war happening across the sea, it’s an interesting look at immigration culture at the time, politics, and most of all, the things that all people from all time periods have in common: the desire to be loved and cared for. I reread this one when the covid-19 pandemic started, and it’s just as good the second time around.
For inspiring non-fiction…
Educated by Tara Westover
This book is on plenty of “must-read” lists and with good reason. This memoir is about Tara, a girl who grew up in Idaho with her ultra-religious family. Her father believed public schools were full of propaganda, so Tara and her siblings never attended school. She eventually went on to get degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Cambridge. Tara’s story certainly has its heartbreaks—abuse, shame, fear—but it’s also a beautiful nod to the pure desire to learn. If you’re open to it, I’d recommend listening to this one as an audiobook – seriously great narration!
Rise: How A House Built A Family by Cara Brookins
A very interesting story about a woman who built a home with her children. Cara didn’t have the means to buy a new home after escaping an abusive marriage. So, she turned to YouTube videos and crazy self-determination to build her own with her four kids – not something she had ANY experience in. There’s a picture of the end product on her website (a gorgeous home the writer now lives in). It’s fun to look as the picture and think about some of the struggle that went into this beautiful home; think plumbing nightmares, nails all over the place, several injuries, etc.
For a modern-day human issue story…
The Handmaid’s Tale & The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Series reads as a group or with a buddy are always fun. Start with The Handmaid’s Tale and move on to the sequel Atwood wrote years later, The Testaments. If you really love the story, you could also watch the Hulu show together. The story is about a world where an ultra-conservative Puritan government rises to power as a response to a drastic decline in birthrates. This is one of the few times I loved the sequel more than the original, so I’d definitely recommend committing to both.
Life As An Almost is all about strong women just doing their damn best! There’s Charlotte, who is trying to reconcile the consequences of her teenage pregnancy, and Evie, a young woman living with cerebral palsy and just trying to build herself a solid life after growing out of the foster care system. It’s a story about the abortion debate, and yet not a political debate at all. It connects the two sides of this political topic on a humanistic and wholehearted level.
Look out for Kindle sales on #internationalwomensday for Life As An Almost. And let me know if you do end up reading this as a group, I love doing Zoom drop-ins on virtual book clubs :)
But I'm not in a book club!
That’s okay. Reading is the best hobby to dive into independently. I’m also hearing of the cutest ways people are using books to connect, especially during the pandemic. Pick a book for a mother/daughter buddy read (I like to check in every chapter, but pick a schedule that works for you); do a Zoom book club with siblings or cousins in different cities; or recruit a few friends for a trial book club—no long-term commitments or tight deadlines that scare most people away. Do surprise book mail (buy someone a book off their Goodreads wishlist and send it their way). Who knows, you may end up loving #bookclub and turning it into a monthly thing!